COLUMBIA, S.C. – The University of Connecticut softball team split a doubleheader with Michigan State on its final day of the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. The Huskies fell 9-0 to start the day but got a taste of sweet revenge with an 8-3 victory to close the afternoon. UConn is now 4-14 overall and the Spartans are 10-9 on the season.
Freshman righty Jill Stockley (3-6) made her eighth start and was charged with the loss after allowing 13 hits and six runs (five earned) with five strikeouts in 6.0 innings in the circle. Kristina Zalewski (4-5) tossed a complete-game three-hitter and also notched nine strikeouts.
Stockley put her resilience on display to kick things off, working her way out of a bases loaded, no out jam with back-to-back strikeouts to help keep the Spartans off the scoreboard.
MSU drew first blood, scoring the game’s first run in the top of the fifth. Sarah Gutknecht opened up the frame with a single up the middle to tally the RBI as the Spartans took a 1-0 lead. MSU posted two more runs on a throwing error and wild pitch, going up 3-0.
The Huskies threatened in the bottom of the inning. Lexi Gifford doubled down the right field line and Dominique Pinto picked up a walk before Alyssa Gardea singled to stack the bags but couldn’t make it count.
In the seventh, the Spartans put up six runs, three on singles, two on a triple and one on a groundout for a decisive 9-0 victory.
Sophomore RHP Chelsea Eckert (1-7) shined as she tossed a complete game against Michigan State for her first win of the season. The rightly allowed three runs and six hits to go with three strikeouts. The Spartans brought in four different pitchers to try and slow the Huskies down. Celeste Wood (1-1) recorded the loss after surrendering six of the Husky runs and five hits in 2.2 innings of work.
The Huskies were stellar in the top of the third, putting together six runs on three hits and two walks. Ryne Nakama started the inning by earning a walk and advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt from Ally Hernandez. Gardea followed up with a single to the pitcher to put runners on the corners. Townsend tallied her fourth RBI of the season with her own single to the pitcher, as the Huskies took a 1-0 edge.
Gifford showed her patience in the batter’s box to nab the walk, loading the bases for the Huskies. Alyson Ambler was hit by a pitch, sending Gardea in for another tally. Next up, Pinto broke the game wide open after she smashed her fourth double of the season to left field to get three runs home. Going back through the order with another bases loaded opportunity, three-straight walks by MSU pitcher Bridgette Rainey plated Pinto as UConn went ahead 6-0.
The Spartans responded in the bottom of the inning on a triple to right center by Ebonee Echols. Teammate Lea Foerster followed up with a two-run homer over center field to cut the lead in half but the Huskies were still up 6-3.
Townsend began the fourth by getting hit by a pitch and Kelli Bates laid down the sacrifice bunt to move her to second. Gifford came up to the plate and drove a single to left field before stealing second to put both runners in scoring position. Pinto once again came up big, reaching on a throwing error by the second basemen, while Townsend and Gifford dashed home for a pair of runs and an 8-3 lead.
Four different Huskies recorded an RBI on the day, with Pinto leading the way with three thanks to her double. Townsend and Gifford notched two runs and two hits each while Ambler, Pinto and Gardea tallied a run and one hit in the outing.
The team is set to travel to Hempstead, N.Y. for the Hofstra Invitational, starting on Saturday, March 12.
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